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by Tamarria Fernandez and Stephen Lane
“If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.” —Zora Neale Hurston
On October 29, the Whitfield family of Indianapolis held a memorial service for their son Herman Whitfield III on what would have been his 40th birthday. The service was held at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in the Haughville neighborhood. Herman is no longer here to celebrate any more birthdays with his family because Indianapolis Metro Police Department officers cut his life short earlier this year in April.
Herman’s parents called 911 for help the night Herman was experiencing a mental health crisis. Instead of the city sending an ambulance equipped with mental health professionals to assist Herman to deescalate the situation, the city sent IMPD officers. These officers are trained killers! They showed Herman no compassion and seemed frustrated with Herman the night they decided to tase him twice and suffocate him in his home in front of his parents.
Tamarria, a member of the Indianapolis branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, attended the memorial service and reflected on the continued police brutality in the city.
“This is tragic because his parents called for help and their child was murdered in front of them by police,” she said. “Again, IMPD murder an unarmed Black man, who wasn’t a threat to them. The coroner’s report clearly states Whitfield’s death was a homicide. The video and coroner’s report are enough to press criminal charges against the officers who took his life.”
“Let this moment radicalize you rather than lead you to despair!”
The Whitfield family is now left wondering what went wrong that night, confused that Herman is no longer alive and feel that this shouldn’t happen again to anyone’s child or family member.
It is clear that empty reform efforts by city officials and increased funding every year doesn’t change the fact that IMPD is running exactly how it was designed to run. The system isn’t broken, it was made this way! The current system protects these murderous cops and makes it extremely difficult to prosecute them when they kill yet another member of the working class; more often than not Black men.
Pastor Clyde Posley, Jr. gave a powerful speech at the memorial about the need for unity in a time of crisis after crisis in this country. He said we either figure out a way to come together or we will perish together. We must heed his warning and Whitfield’s death as the alarms that they are in our present state in society. Let their messages push us to act.
Pastor Posley understands that only the strength and power of a unified multinational working-class front can solve the issues we face today including state-sanctioned police violence.
When a life is taken away it doesn’t affect only that one person but affects the entire community who knew Herman. He was considered a musical genius by his former teachers and other musicians near and far who had the privilege to perform alongside him. This moment has, once again, radicalized a family—who experienced trauma while trying to get services for their son—and another slew of workers who have never experienced the violence of the state in such a horrific way.
“We have to fight and get answers!”
As the capitalist system continues to decay and rot from the inside out, its true violent nature turns on working-class people. It scares us into submission and only through our collective resistance can we overcome this system and create a better system.
“Have you seen the video?” Herman’s mother, Gladys Whitfield, asked me as I approached her to offer condolences. I saw the video and I was disgusted and concerned for Herman’s parents at the loss of their son who was so successful in his musical career.
The Whitfield family has a petition out with demands because they want answers from those who are supposedly meant to hold murderous cops accountable. Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears isn’t doing anything to lock officers up behind bars where they belong. It is up to activists and the community to stand behind the Whitfield family to put pressure on IMPD and the Prosecutor’s Office to let them know the officers involved in Herman’s death needs to be held accountable.
We extend our solidarity and echo their demands. We encourage everyone to sign the petition so this family can get the justice they deserve for their son!
The Whitfield Family is asking for the local, state, and world community to join them in calling on the Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, Indianapolis City-County Council President Vop Osili, IMPD Police Chief Randal Taylor, IMPD General Orders Board Member Lahny Silva, and the Indianapolis Citizen’s Police Complaint Board IMMEDIATELY:
Release the Complete & Unedited Body Camera Footage for Every Officer Who Went to the Whitfield Home on April 25, 2022 to Attorneys, the Press, Organizers & the Public
Terminate Every Officer Involved in the Homicide of Herman Whitfield, III and the Violation of His Parents’ Rights to Prevent Harm to Other Community Members
Fully Comply with the Prosecutor’s Office as it Considers Arrest of & Criminal Charges Against, Criminal Conviction of the Officers Involved in the Homicide of Herman III
Request U.S. Department of Justice & FBI Investigations of the Homicide of Herman Whitfield III & IMPD’s Policies and Practices STAND AGAINST POLICE KILLINGS & DEMAND THAT INDIANAPOLIS OFFICIALS TAKE ACTION AGAINST THE POLICE FOR THE HOMICIDE OF HERMAN WHITFIELD III.
Learn more and sign up to stay involved in actions at www.justice4herman3rd.org
A statement from the family read by Dea Lott, a friend of the family with a law background helping to organize the Justice for Whitfield III campaign, reads: “He was a gifted Black pianist and composer and our dearly loved son. But whether Herman III was exceptional or ordinary does not matter, he was human. He was a beautiful, caring, gentle and sensitive human. And he was a member of the Indianapolis community in need of compassion and care. Yet, at the lowest point of Herman’s life the IMPD denied him any compassion as they brutalized and killed him with no justification for doing so.”
The capitalist system we currently live in does not exist to serve the people. The system is working as it was designed to work through brutal violence directed against someone of our class in need of care.
“[Herman] was never aggressive nor even posed a threat to us or the officers,” his parents said.
Yet, that is the function of the police force, is to get away with their bloodlust with no consequences. These murderous cops have not been charged and are still working in IMPD out there amongst us waiting for another chance to kill again.
No War but Class War
The Party for Socialism and Liberation recognizes that these demands are not enough in terms of what we need, which is a working-class revolution to put a permanent end to police violence and put power in the hands of the people. It’s our duty to stand up and fight against police violence towards the Black community.
In this moment, we stand firm in our solidarity with the Whitfield family and echo their demands for justice! Together we can push for a better world today, we can advance our class towards that socialist revolution that we all need and want. Take action now before they murder another unarmed person. No Justice! No Peace! No Killer Police!
Please click here take a few moments to read the demands and sign the petition.